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January 2021


Picture of Jed Welder from the waist up sitting in a tractor cab.Michigan AgrAbility is honored to serve those who served. Jed Welder, army ranger veteran, served tours in Iraq and Iran. After retiring from the military, he returned home to the family farm to raise corn, soybeans, and wheat. Pivoting to watch operations going on behind the tractor or combine was becoming increasingly more difficult and painful. A mailbox and road sign have all been casualties of his mobility limitations. Picture of a green combine coming at you in a dry corn field with tree rows on the left and behind the combine.Michigan AgrAbility assisted Jed with purchasing and installing back-up cameras in both the combine and a tractor to help save function in his back and neck. It should also be a tool in maintaining good relationships with neighbors and the township! Thank you for your service, Jed. Thank you to all the veterans Michigan AgrAbility serves. Thank you to all American veterans!

The Michigan AgrAbility 2020 Year-In-Review newsletter was distributed the first week of December. A shout-out and thank you to Michigan AgrAbility's Bev Berens for coordinating the procurement of articles from staff and her meticulous proofreading and our partner, Michigan Farm Bureau for formatting the articles into such a polished publication. Here's a story from it about a capstone project for Caleb Brown.

MSU Mechanical Engineering seniors take part in a capstone project each semester. Michigan AgrAbility sponsored two design teams for the Fall 2020 semester. One designed a spring system for pulling the cord on a small engine to make it easier to start for workers with shoulder injuries. Many farms use small engine equipment such as chainsaws, lawnmowers, and string trimmers, which require a pull-cord to start. These pull-cord engines require a quick "jerk" motion to start them, which can be difficult to achieve if the user has upper extremity impairments. To help in such instances, the team was tasked with designing a fully mechanical device that allows the user to start the pull-cord engines with their foot, rather than their arm. Despite calling for the design to integrate some sort of motion that is carried out by the foot, with the permission of Michigan AgrAbility, the team came up with a design that limits any sort of quick motion, whether that be via the arm or leg. The design uses a tension spring in order to build up and store potential energy, which is then transformed into kinetic energy through the release of the spring. This quick release of the spring mimics the quick "jerk" motion necessary to start the pull-cord engine, in turn starting the engine without any exhausting physical exertion to the user. The design included easily accessible parts and a step-by-step build guide. It was designed carefully and thoughtfully so that any farmer can create the device in the comfort of their Zoom screenshot of the 5 people on the small engine design team.own home. Not only is the device easy to assemble, but it is also universal in that it can start all sorts of small engine equipment besides just chainsaws. Michigan AgrAbility thanks the team members (left to right, top to bottom) Andrew Scott, Tyler Davis, David Demeo, Austin Smith, Collin Lynch, and their academic advisor, Dr. Sara Roccabianca, for their work in assisting the farming community!

The second team sponsored by Michigan AgrAbility designed a man-lift swing arm with a seat to safely assist farmers getting into their tractor cabs. As many of you know, farmers are an innovative group, and many have built their own man-lifts to provide easy access to their equipment. These homemade manlifts often have both safety and exertion issues during the farmer's transition from the lift to the seat of their equipment due to the gap existing between the farmer's lifted position and the seat of their equipment. The team designed an affordable and re-creatable powered swing-arm to maximize the safety and minimize the exertion issues. The swing-arm consists of two rotational joints to provide a greater field of motion, capable of transporting the farmer from his/her wheelchair to the lift, from the lift to the seat of their equipment, and around any equipment obstacles, e.g., vehicle door. Zoom screenshot of the 5 people on the swing arm design teamMichigan AgrAbility thanks the design team for their efforts to assist farmers with disabilities: (from left to right, top to bottom) Alexis French, Rylan Huss, Alison Reinhold, Zachary Myers, Noah Dudley, and their faculty advisor, Dr. Norbert Mueller.

Submitted by Deb Chester